Athlete development and nature vs. nuture

Would you ever want to know if you're susceptible to a metabolic disease? That you have genetic markers that indicate that you are more (or less) at risk to develop a medical condition? That's one of the selling points of 23andMe's genetic testing, which has only recently reappeared on the US market after some trickiness around their claims and the capacity of how people can digest and understand that information.

How about with human performance? Would you want to know if you're genetically wired to perform at a higher level than the general population? Perhaps you can go farther or recover quicker. That's the main drive between Athletigen, which uses 23andMe's test to highlight specific traits tied to human performance with the goal of targeted training and coaching for increased performance.

But how much of this is pseudoscience? How much do any of us actually know about genetic traits and what they really mean? How much can we actually understand? Is there a generation of athletes coming up that will be identified not by testing or observation, but through a cheek swab?

In that spirit, here's an amazing story of how much traits including those tied to human performance present themselves regardless of upbringing: A Tale of Two Sisters by Nancy L. Segal


The power to not play

These past few days have been extremely interesting with two very different situations leading to sport teams standing up and walking out until change occurs.

In Missouri, the football team declared they were not going to practice or play until the president of the university stepped down. The strong stance was in response to racial tension at the school and it worked, with the president soon resigning.

Meanwhile, in a situation that may not have had as important motivation but was no less revelatory, the entire roster of the OHL's Flint Firebirds quit after their coaching staff was fired, forcing team management to back-peddle and re-instate.

Like the VICE article details, these incidents are nearly unprecedented. Perhaps the only surprising fact is that situations like this, with teams taking a united stand against what they feel is not right, are not happening more often, especially in environments like college sports and junior hockey.

That door is now wide open. What happens next?



On Jason Whitlock

Chait was saying that the members of Team A—faced with referees who are knowingly, purposely cheating them out of a fair shot to succeed, and in this case for something as arbitrary and as capricious as the idea of race—should play on valiantly. Instead of despairing, or refusing to play altogether, Team A's players should keep their heads down, work hard, and play by a set of rules designed specifically to deny their team victory, hoping that a player or two will manage to fluke a double-double. Chait was underestimating and, more importantly, discounting the sheer amount of rage that Team A would experience every day and would have every right to experience. He was telling Team A's players to just get on with this sham, to ignore how fucked they are, how it's in the officials' interest to keep fucking them, and how this is why Team A will remain fucked as long as it agrees to play this game. In the face of blatant injustice, he was telling Team A to pretend it didn't exist.

On Jason Whitlock and black journalism, Deadspin.com

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The end of fandom

So am I not a fan anymore? I know my daughter is not going to understand most of what happens at the game, but I want to give her the chance to be near it, and become enmeshed in it. After all, we don’t fall in love with live basketball, at least not at first, because of beautiful down screens or crisp defensive rotations or true shooting percentages. It’s the atmosphere that does it, the feeling of being gathered into something bigger and stronger than oneself. It’s something I almost can’t even see anymore, except through her.

The Start of Something - Steve McPherson

The news of Donald Sterling in Los Angeles, as Sean Newell from Deadspin put it: "But it's not just basketball, it's a disgusting spectacle. An unapologetic racist sits entrenched, as other rich white men try to figure out how best to mitigate his disgraceful conduct, while men he thinks of as property amuse him, because that's all they can do. This isn't basketball at all."

It all has me thinking a lot about what's important in sport and life and business and games.

Even if we forget it sometimes, there’s more to basketball than the basketball. There are millions of things, all teeming and lit up with various vibrations, resonances that reach back into the places where the game first took hold. It may be that my daughter will never love basketball, but I hope she loves the world. I hope she never stops wanting to learn about it without ever completely forgetting how it feels at the very beginning.

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How a rogue PR man in Buffalo shook up sports

"If [sports are] not fun," he says as we're finishing breakfast, "what the hell are they?"

From Sabre Rattler

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Will there be a World Cup?

Hospitals and schools are falling down while stadiums are rising up. The government in Rio tried to demolish one of the best elementary schools in the country to make room for a parking lot near the Maracanã Stadium, where the World Cup final will be played.

Generation June, ESPN.com


Advanced stats in basketball and the new direction of sports writing

Another great article that isn't directly correlating with hockey, but still really interested me.

This feature on Grantland's Zach Lowe:

I work a lot as anyone in the NBA does, as anyone in sports does. I always tell people I have one of those jobs that sounds amazing when you go to parties, and you do, but anyone that covers sports knows there's sort of a de facto "it happens at night and on the weekends when other people are resting" deal. Though I guess every industry is a 24/7 industry.

That article led me to this article about John Hollinger's predictions on the Raptors' season. Hollinger predicted that the Raptors would finish 12th overall with a .402 winning percentage (33-49). Right now at the 50 game mark, the Raptors are 11th overall with a .360 winning percentage (18-32).

Interesting stuff.


Match-Fixing in Soccer

You can still have sports if players are cheating. You can still have sports if fans are fighting in the parking lot. Those are problems, big problems, but they can be addressed without threatening the basic concept of the game. When the outcomes of matches are being dictated from the outside, though? You no longer have a game at that point. You have something else, a weird simulacrum, pro wrestling without the feather boas. (And, almost as crucially, without the fun.) The essential idea of athletic competition — let's both show up and try to win — is no longer operating. This is why the Black Sox scandal is still the biggest in the history of American sports, and it's also why the NFL, the NBA, MLB, the NHL, and the NCAA are all currently suing to stop New Jersey from legalizing sports betting.

Match-Fixing in Soccer by Brian Phillips, Grantland.com

Great article. I really love the point about how we turn to sports to combat the unfairness in life, because sport is fair and the rules are defined.